The Journey to Now; Part I
She filled up an A4 page with all forms and calligraphies of the three lettered word ‘NOW’. All the time old memories of Sit Zeinab persistently pouring back to her mind. Sit Zeinab the dark huge Sudanese English Language teacher. How did a young Sudanese woman manage to be the only local staff among troops of British and Egyptian expatriate teachers? And, at a time when the Anglo/Egyptian Condominium colonization restricted formal education to a handful of male students, and girls were taught only needle work and the like by the effort of their families.
Spell the word NOW. –N – O – W: NOW; - Repeat. – NOW; AGAIN. – NOW….
Use NOW in a sentence. – I am standing up NOW. Come in NOW. NOW what?
What part of speech is…….
You never told us Sit Zeinab that Now is an instant in time or a spot in a place at the far end of a long hard to travel road, I wonder if you ever managed to reach it Sit Zeinab in your short lived life; may Allah bless your soul.
Here is my road to Now. I can’t say whether I am at the beginning or approaching the end. When I reach it I would then decide if it is a point in time or a spot on Earth or just another legend like the ‘Present’ which you reach and get ready to live but it turns its back and becomes past!
My teacher father came in late and called me to his divan. He handed me a small Penguin book, small print, and said: Try to read this; my friend the khawwaja (Englishman) gave it to me and said it is a good book; he wanted to tell me the story but I told him that my daughter reads English. At eleven I was in my second year of Intermediate school and my father wanted me to read Oscar Wilde ‘The World in the Year 2002’!
I accepted the challenge! He never asked me about the book but a few days later he brought me a Longmans Dictionary and said ‘the khawwaja said this will help you’;
George Orwell’s Animal Farm followed and many more. It is clear my father understood that he set me right at the starting point to the road. A road he found so hard that he once stated on a letter a short while before his sudden death: ‘I am sure you, with your brother,
will help your sisters’.
Now, at 20, as I was getting ready to travel on a Ministry of Education scholarship to Beirut, I find myself in charge of a family of ten children of all ages from 24 to 3 and an exceptionally wise and patient mother who managed their life so well that I felt I was a millionairess.
I am now set on the way to a ‘Now’ that keeps trotting off whenever I got nearer.
A tall handsome English man knocked at our door one morning; all houses in the neighbourhood (mostly my uncles’) opened their doors and peeped, three of my little sisters came running to me while two stood watching the calm Mr Tom Job waiting at the gate: Asha, Asha, a khawwaja wants to see you, he is waiting outside. Call him in, my mother said. I met him half way to the veranda and after greetings he broke the news: Asha, the British Council is offering you a two year scholarship for a TOEFL diploma at the University of Leeds. If you accept fill this form up and you have a mee………..
Now what, Sit Zeinab?
Salamualeikum Uncle. – Ahmmm. – I am going to Britain to study. – Who is going with you? – We are eleven teachers. – Men or women? -9 men and we are two. – Go home, no girl of ours will go that far alone!
My uncle never spoke to me after that sentence, when I returned after 2 years, he already died.
My mother faced everyone and she just ordered me to go to Khartoum for the meeting and fly from there.
‘Now’ seems nearer thanks to my mother, the heavy burden is half lifted now that the only brother is back from his scholarship in Moscow. Fly Asha, your father’s dream is coming alive.
To be continued…..